Thursday, March 19, 2009

In Which Our Heroine Decides to Conquer the World

The New York Times has an ongoing photographic slideshow called “Why We Travel,” often filled with larger-than-life scenery, colorful clothing on dark-skinned strangers, and animals of which a New England-raised girl can only dream. These images are offered alongside heartfelt quotations as an attempt to answer the question that comes with the call to explore – why?

Excuse me. I know, as you probably do as well, that there ain’t just one reason for moving around. And if one were able to isolate the cause, the impetus to get up and move, the images that would accompany it would not exclusively be beautiful –

Traveling to “understand other people.”

Traveling to “learn about new cultures.”

Traveling to “try new things.”

All experiences we could have in our own backyards, if we were to try. How often have I walked past the Asian market near my apartment instead of going in and learning to cook with actual Korean ingredients? I spent years in school NOT taking the opportunity to learn a new language. And the number of times I have been grouchy or insensitive rather than “understanding other people” — well! It seems we should all just stay home and try to be better people.

Nevertheless, there is a very definitive call that draws people over borders into new lands. The physical shifting of space seems to have a real impact on the human mind. Which is funny, really, when one considers the seemingly common assumption now that the human mind is intangible and possibly biologically unchangeable (take it up with Freud). There is an element to “living the metaphors” — casting off our routine lives to venture off somewhere else, even when we are “venturing off” into someone else’s routine life.

People are funny.

Well, this wouldn’t be much of a travel blog if I tried to convince readers not to travel. And certainly, I know better — whether my experiences have been good or bad, I have never regretted “trying on” life in a new place. But I just want to make sure we are all on the same page (a little pun there, excuse me), all agreeing to try to think about travel experiences a little more deeply, perhaps than we have done before. Mmmkay?

All right, I’m all antsy-pantsed to get started . . .

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